Steel vs. Plastic - What are the Key Differences?
When it comes to installing new gutters on a house or commercial building, whether it is replacing old, worn out guttering or on an extension or a new build project, most people automatically think plastic. This is generally because they are unaware that there are other alternatives, namely Cast Iron, Aluminium and Steel. In this post we will take a look at Steel gutter systems, outlining the main differences between steel and plastic and highlighting some of the features and benefits of each.
This is probably the first question that consumers will inevitably ask. As you would expect, steel is more expensive than plastic. On a standard 3 bedroom semi-detached property, the cost of materials for standard half round PVC guttering should be approximately £100-£120 inclusive of VAT. For plastic deep-flow gutters, which are similar in profile to steel, this cost rises to £140-£160. The same materials in steel would be approximately £320 - £350. Whilst that may sound expensive, compare the price to cast iron at around £900 and it takes on a slightly different perspective.
Surprisingly, there are a similar amount of colour options for both steel and plastic gutters. PVC systems are generally available in black, white, brown, grey and cast iron effect. At Gutter Supplies we stock steel in a Galvanised finish, which is the most popular, but also in Black, Graphite Grey, Copper Effect and White. We have made a short video that highlights the difference between our Graphite Grey Steel and standard grey PVC.
Ease of Installation
Whilst most builders are familiar with the installation of PVC Gutters, the process is actually very similar for both steel and plastic gutters. Both systems can be installed by homeowners who are confident in their DIY skills, as no specialist tools are required – just a hacksaw, drill, pliers or snips, a screwdriver and a spirit level. One thing to look out for is that some steel systems do require additional unions (joiners) due to the fact that some fittings such as gutter angles do not have integral seals. You can save time and money by choosing a steel system which includes seals in all gutter fittings, one example of which is our supplier Galeco.
Both steel and PVC are generally durable, long lasting materials but you should always check what guarantee is being offered by the retailer. A reputable PVC gutter manufacturer should offer a ten-year guarantee, which is the industry standard for this type of product. With steel gutter systems the picture is less clear, making it the choice of manufacturer and retailer all the more important. Gutter Supplies’ Galeco steel system is guaranteed for 35 years against mechanical defects and for 15 years against the colour finish.
Shapes and Sizes
Plastic domestic gutters are available in half round, square, deep-flow (which is more of a half oval shape) and a decorative ogee profile. Sizes are similar for all manufacturers; generally each system is between 110mm and 115mm across with a depth of between 50mm and 80mm depending upon the profile. Steel gutters are half round in shape with a feature bead on the top front edge, but the sizes are slightly larger than their plastic equivalents, with a width of 120-150mm. Depth is also generally deeper at around 75-80mm.
Both steel and plastic gutters are virtually maintenance free. All that is required is a wipe down with a damp cloth a couple of times a year to keep the external appearance looking smart, and a clear out of any leaves, twigs or moss at the same time to ensure that a good flow of water is maintained. It is always advisable to fit some sort of leaf guard to any gutter system –this prevents the build up over time of any vegetable matter and more importantly prevents downpipes and even drainage pipes from becoming blocked.
Which one to choose?
If you are looking for a long-term investment in your gutters, then going that extra mile on budget and choosing a good steel guttering system from a reputable supplier is probably the right option – it will have roughly the same colour and design options as its plastic counterpart, and it will likely look a little different to the gutter next door. If you aren’t that flexible on budget, then plastic will be the better option for you – it is slightly easier to install, very versatile and still very durable, as long as you do use a supplier who offers a manufacturer’s guarantee. Ultimately, as long as you choose a quality system, it’s only down to budget and personal taste to decide on. At Gutter Supplies we stock a wide variety of both PVC and steel gutters, and if you would like to discuss any specific guttering requirements please don’t hesitate to contact us.